Thumbs up/down for Monday, Jan. 20, 2014

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Thumbs up to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores. The Habitat for Humanity branch serving Rock and Jefferson counties operates ReStores in Janesville and Fort Atkinson. These home improvement stores accept donations of new and gently used building materials, accessories, appliances and furniture. Shoppers enjoy bargain prices, and proceeds help build new Habitat homes. As a bonus, the stores keep materials out of landfills. Dave Thomas, branch director, estimated that the Janesville store “repurposed” nearly 6 tons of materials in its first 90 days. The chapter reports growing business and that customers are finding creative ways to reuse and recycle. The stores share photos of such projects on “brag boards” that stir creativity among shoppers. The Janesville store is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays at 320 E. Milwaukee St. The Fort Atkinson store is open from 9 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays at 1525 Summit Drive, Unit 2.

Thumbs up Ronnie E. Thomas’ lifetime of service. Janesville said goodbye Saturday to a good one. Thomas wasn’t a Janesville native, but that didn’t keep him from leaving a large mark on his adopted hometown. He worked 34 years for General Motors. After Thomas retired in 1992, he and his wife, Delores, who died in 2012, became “full-time volunteers.” Among other things, they played Santa and Mrs. Claus, posed as Easter bunnies, oversaw the SHARE food service and also served Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, Special Olympics and the Rock County Council on Aging. As Gina Duwe reported Jan. 10, Thomas didn’t know the word “no.” Former Janesville Councilman Tom Brien, who like Thomas was active in the UAW, doesn’t believe LaborFest would exist if not for Thomas. He didn’t seek recognition but only to better his community. Thomas died Jan. 6, and all of Janesville will feel his loss.

Thumbs down to state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc. Kleefisch stepped in it big time. He crafted legislation to cap how much the wealthy pay in child support. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal exposed the bill for what it is—legislation designed largely to help a wealthy constituent reduce his court-ordered $18,000 in monthly child support. The newspapers reported that drafting documents reveal businessman Michael Eisenga and his lawyer helped craft the bill. What’s worse, Eisenga donated thousands to the campaigns of Kleefisch and his wife, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. And Eisenga, the former Columbus mayor, reportedly owns two Rolls-Royces but had the audacity to try to get his three kids on BadgerCare, designed for low-income people. Amid this stench, Rep. Kleefisch pulled AB 540 from a scheduled public hearing last week but had the gall to suggest it was due to “misinformation the bill has encountered.” For shame, Rep. Kleefisch.

Thumbs up to Milton teacher Cathy Fernan. This 26-year veteran math and science teacher is in her first year of science instruction at Northside Intermediate School and one of just two Wisconsinites to earn the Presidential Teaching Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This award, given biennially by the president to grade-school level teachers, is the highest national honor for those instructing these basics. Colleagues nominated Fernan, and state Superintendent Tony Evers recommended her as a national finalist. Part of what makes her stand out is an approach that advocates communicating to solve problems. She draws students into learning that feels like group conversations. “I believe that he who converses the most, learns the most,” she told Gazette reporter Neil Johnson. Teachers often are subject to much scrutiny these days, so it’s nice to shine a positive spotlight on Fernan.

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